Hello friends! Today I have a special interview with London-based stylist and author Emily Chalmers. But first, I hope that your day is going well for you. We just signed on our new apartment about an hour ago and the renovations begin next week (already!), so I’m living fast and crazy at the moment. The baby is doing so well too – I’ve entered my third trimester and my 29th week begins on Monday. I heard his heart beat again today at my appointment and he’s kicking as I type this, so he’s a feisty and strong little fellow. Pregnancy feels fun (finally) and though I still deal with nausea, I’m over the hard part so I’m living more normally again. Yay for that! Ok, so let’s get started shall we? Let’s meet Emily Chalmers!
I recently had a friendly little convo with London-based stylist, shop owner and book author, Emily Chalmers and you are invited to listen in below. Her books and life in general are so interesting to me, and she became a first time mom not too long ago and this made me want to chat with her even more – to see how she’s managing everything! Since she had her baby, she’s been traveling with her little bundle to some really inspiring places like Japan, so I wanted to tap in to her energetic and bohemian mother goddess self. I still feel quite clueless about the road ahead with my baby due and so many people tell me that you have no life once you have kids but I want to think that I still can have my own identity so chatting with women like Emily make me feel very positive and encouraged! Let us begin…
Hi Emily! Okay, so you recently moved – where are you living in London these days?
Emily: We’ve lived in the same area of London for years now – we love the East End! After 8 1/2 happy years in an old warehouse space in central Shoreditch we’re now just 3 years in to a “proper” house (with internal walls and central heating this time!) very near Columbia Road area, a few minutes walk from the old place. I love this spot – we have parks and a city farm near by, the canal’s not far away, and excellent transport links to anywhere else we might want to go. We’re also under a minute away from the vibrant market that takes place every Sunday on Columbia Road itself. Live music, good food, bric-a-brac and masses and masses of fresh flowers and plants. What a treat!
You also closed up shop but I understand you reopened it at home or? And how are your running it, by appointment only?
Emily: In the year following our house move I was due to move the Caravan shop premises as our lease had come to an end on Redchurch Street and the building was due for extensive renovation. I’d known this was coming up, of course, and had kept an eye out in the locality. Coincidentally I’d seen an available space very near our future new home and for some reason I kept going back to it – it was smaller than the previous shop and in a very different sort of location, tucked away under a block of flats in a much quieter area on the outskirts of Shoreditch and very near Columbia Road. We’d only been in our new home for a few months when I discovered I was expecting a baby. Suddenly everything fell into place and the premises around the corner became the perfect spot for Caravan! That Spring I secured Caravan’s next home – it hadn’t been used as a shop for a long time and with the help of a trusty builder we stripped it out and created a light and airy simple open space to make room for the 3 floors-worth of bits I’d managed to accumulate at Redchurch Street. I spent the following months editing stock and turning my attention to our online store. Baby Bunty arrived that winter and I then gradually built up a shop floor again whilst getting to grips with my new life as a mother too.
How is shop ownership with a toddler working out?
Emily: It’s been an interesting time, Bunty has moved from pram to playpen to playhouse in the shop next to me each day and it’s an extension of home to her now. We’re only a few steps away from our front door and always going back and forth, a good server system and a trusty laptop allows me to work from any location – it’s this flexibility that has allowed me to enjoy my time with the baby while keeping the business running. Customers visited by appointment while I was working out of the new space piled floor to ceiling with boxes. Even though we’re more organised now, this system still works best as I can remain hands-on in every aspect of the business and we can plan around Bunty’s schedule too. Seeing customers by appointment also adds a far more personal touch – it’s like having a visitor every time someone pops by and means I can be prepared for them.
What kinds of things do you sell?
Emily: The Caravan inventory has always been a mixed bag! We sell mainly home decoration, cushions, candle holders, wall sconces, mirrors, lighting, etc. alongside eclectic and unusual ornaments and gifts, such as little knitted dogs, baby shoes and tea towels. We also offer a few pieces of jewellery and some very lovely gold and silver leather clogs, so there are things to wear too. Our signature pieces are our vintage fabric covered cushions, vintage silk scarf drapes and a beautiful pineapple wall sconce that is produced especially for the store.
You still have an online shop, are you running that mostly full-time now?
Emily: The online shop continues 24/7 and is an area of the business that fits in very well with family life. I can pack parcels any time of the day and night – and often do! I am an established interiors author and stylist and I’ve always continued to produce features for magazines alongside running the shop. When I was fitting out the shop floor I made sure everything can be moved easily – I’ve kept the space very flexible too so that we can shoot there and work on other projects.
What are some current decorating trends that you’ve spotted in London lately?
Emily: We are surrounded by decorating trends here in London, especially in the area I live. There seem to be so many trends around – it’s lovely to see that everything goes nowadays. What I have noticed is that everything seems very much more considered than it did a few years ago. It’s as if people are just more aware of interiors generally. I’ve always been a fan of a more eclectic bohemian approach and this is definitely still a strong look generally.
What other things are you involved in – do you do styling jobs on the side or is your daughter and shop enough at the moment?
Emily: I do manage the odd styling job on the side and it tends to be in my shop or home. Bunty and Caravan are probably enough to be getting on with, but much of what I do crosses over, so it all works out somehow.
You are a new mom, how old is your daughter and what has motherhood taught you?
Emily: Bunty will be 2 years old next month. In a strange way, time has flown by but I’ve also managed to savour every moment. Ooooh, motherhood has taught me so much – I don’t even know where to begin with this question! Motherhood has helped me appreciate my life more too, it has helped me to simplify things and concentrate on what works best for me at this point in time. It is full of challenges and then, of course, of achievements. I love it!
Do you think that having a child changes a woman, and if so, how has it changed you?
Emily: Yes, I do think having a child can change a woman. Perhaps not every woman though, it depends on how you approach it. Like everything in life! I’m not sure how it has changed me but it has certainly developed me.
Have you noticed whether or not your daughter has a creative knack yet like you do and if so, in what ways?
Emily: Children are incredibly imaginative. I see this in Bunty and it’s a joy to nurture that quality and create a safe and secure environment so you can stand back, give enough space, and allow it to grow. Seeing Bunty setting out her little tea set in her playhouse in the shop is wonderful! The other day she gathered up three crows (we sell ornamental crow figures at Caravan), set them down in a neat row and put little pots in front of them and then said “crows having water” – I thought that was particularly creative seeing as she’s not even been on this earth for 2 years yet!
You author a few of my most precious and beloved books – you have really inspired me over the years. Do you have plans to do more books?
Emily: What a wonderful thing to say, thank you Holly, to hear my books have inspired is the highest compliment. I will definitely be doing more books in the future and I should imagine they will always be decorating related in some way – that’s my raison d’être!
What do you love about living in London and where are your favorite, inspirational haunts from cafes to shopping?
Emily: I love living in London – I love the spirit and vibrancy here and how you can find whatever you need or want, somewhere. I love the cultural mix and the creative energy, the fact that new things pop up all the time, alongside the good established, old things. I love the shopping opportunities and most of all the markets – there are many around London but those in my home area never cease to keep me interested and inspired – Brick Lane, Columbia Road, Spitalfields Antiques Market, Broadway Market and so on. There are some great cafes around – my local favourites have to include the Towpath Cafe on the Regents Canal and a new local favourite is Stories on Broadway Market where they won my heart by giving Bunty her own tiny fruit shake in a little milk bottle with a straw, when I’d only ordered one for myself and was planning to share it. It’s the extra thoughtful touches like that that make a place more special.
And finally, tell us where you go online for inspiration – who do you read, where do you shop for things, etc.?
Emily: I go online for inspiration far less than I’d like to say I do. I’m surrounded by inspiration in my busy day-to-day life so any extra found digitally is always a treat! Having Bunty has allowed me to discover the wealth of and occasionally dip into beautiful online shops for children. I also enjoy finding things on eBay for her. What I tend to do is miss the daily reads and instead I catch up with favourite blogs from time to time. Running a business around a little one means more often than not I spend my evenings working though occasionally I’ll plan an early night and will find time to have a proper blog surf, going from one to another, catching up on what you’ve been up to at decor8 and pouring over sites like Etsy too. What joy!
Some of my favorite things from Emily’s online shop are shown above: 1. LouLou 2. Trunk jug set 3. Modern Vintage Style by Emily Chalmers 4. Metal storage box 5. Ceramic container 6. Gold beakers 7. Ceramic bell lamp 8. Poodle lamp.
Thank you Emily for sharing your world with decor8 readers, it’s a pleasure to meet with you!
(Top 4 photos: Debi Treloar, all others: Emily Chalmers)